The three candidates for mayor in Rocky Hill traded opposing views over their visions for the town’s growth and development in a spirited forum Wednesday night.
Mayor Claudia Baio faced off with Republican Lisa Marotta and Unite! Rocky Hill candidate Henry Vasel.
In her opening statement, Baio said she hoped she nad earned the votes of residents based on her two years of service on the council.
“Those of you who know me, know when I am in, I am all in,” she said. “We responsibly budgeted, reducing the 2016 budget from the prior town manager and keeping our mill rate with just a 0.6 increase despite very difficult state budget year.”
Marotta criticized the current leadership throughout the debate for being too partisan and failing to act on issues such as hiring a town manager.
“This is an extremely important election because it’s an opportunity for us to get our house in order,” she said. “And that starts with responsive, proactive and collaborative people to get the job done.”
Introducing his party, Unite! Rocky Hill, Vasel said his slate was made up of candidates from all political affiliations.
“We are a diverse group of people from the community who want Rocky Hill to be a better place than it is today,” he said. “I am the only candidate up here tonight who passed a zero percent tax increase budget with no services lost.”
Baio countered Vasel’s claim about his tax increase, saying she and the Democratic majority council had to balance out in the next year’s budget.
“No, I didn’t come in with a zero percent tax increase, but quite frankly, it was because of your zero tax increase that we had to make adjustments the next year and still managed to reduce the proposed budget by a full mill rate,” she said.
During the debate, moderated by WFSB’s Mark Zinni, candidates answered questions about why they ran for office, what they hoped to accomplish if elected and how they would handle the state budget and hiring a town manager.
Marotta said if that, if elected, she would create a 5-year-plan to evaluate all of the improvement projects coming down the road and make sure the town develops within the parameters of the 2015 plan of conservation and development.
“It is beyond comprehension to me that our council keeps stalling on hiring a permanent town manager … now more than ever we need an expert guiding us through muddy waters because good stewardship of taxpayer dollars is my number one goal,” she said.
Vasel said he would work to make sure that the state budget doesn’t affect taxpayers and that schools in town do not get overcrowded.
“I am not pleased with our governor only negotiating with our cities,” he said. “I will not support a vote to issue bonds to bridge funding gabs. We need to freeze the budget; we can always make purchases later. We need to cross-train staff to centralize services.”
Baio’s goals included seeing the community senior center and intermediate school finished. Baio also said maintaining Rocky Hill’s good economic standing would be a priority.
“It should be a point of pride that Rocky Hill held it’s Double A plus bond rating under a recent review despite what you see in the newspaper about other towns,” she said. “We have a vibrant economic community in Rocky Hill, but we want it to be vibrant and balanced with our plan of conservation and development.”